Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Put URA plan under the spotlight



    I am writing about the Ketchum Urban Renewal Agency’s proposed plan, a plan shrouded in mystery and closed-door executive sessions, to exchange a lot located at 211 East First St. (the “211 Parcel”) acquired by the KURA in September 2007 (at an estimated all-in cost of $3 million) for a parcel or parcels of raw land lying west of Second Avenue, north of Sixth and south of Seventh streets, purportedly owned by Alex and Patricia Higgins et al (the “Higgins Lot,” with an assessed value of $830,00).
    The Higgins Lot is zoned General Residential-Low Density, i.e. duplex-zoned, allowing up to eight units on the lot. Insurable title to the Higgins Lot may be tainted by a 100-foot-wide railroad right of way transecting the lot. The proposed exchange contemplates up-zoning of the Higgins Lot to a build-out of 21 to 24 units designated affordable housing.
    On Oct. 28, 2009, the Idaho Mountain Express published an exceptionally well-written article entitled: “Putting Ketchum’s URA into context—Is there a good explanation for $5.56 million debt,” written by staff writer Trevon Milliard. The Express ought to put it back on Page 1 right away.
    Cherry picking the article: The people have granted the KURA sole power and authority to borrow large sums of money in the anticipation of some foggy future time when real estate tax revenues in excess of some “base level of real estate tax revenues” will be sufficient to service and pay-off the loans. Further, “URA’s are created to rehabilitate deteriorating areas in a city and promote healthy development.”  Allow me the observation that Ketchum is not Detroit. The KURA’s mission in Ketchum is not the textbook mission of Detroit’s URA.
    The KURA’s proposed exchange (exchange details not disclosed) of properties is so defective as to suggest the people have a rogue agency on the loose. The KURA’s finances, business plan and hierarchy of objectives are unknown. Until the KURA comes clean, it should slow down, table the exchange, disclose the overlapping composition of its membership, publish the details of its operations and justify the economics for its agenda of projects.
    If indeed the 2007 purchase of the 211 Parcel resulted from a genuine miscalculation, so be it. Ketchum proper as a group of pretty smart folks ought to be able to sort out the details, and figure a way out without doing something that is really silly.
    I understand Trevon Milliard is no longer with the Express but the Express should put an investigative reporter on the KURA issue and bring Milliard’s article and subtle (but critical) observations up to date.
Doug Kaiser
Ketchum

 




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